Election Day is coming. For young voters, a lot of big issues are on the line. Let’s take a look at six of them, rapid fire:
+ The Economy & Jobs
A slow-recovering economy and job market is a colossal concern for young voters -- some days, it seems like the best chance for employment is to become a reality TV star. If you don’t think you have what it takes to be on the next Challenge, here’s what the candidates have to offer you.
President Obama’s robust $787 billion stimulus package in the first months of his presidency helped rescue the spiraling economy from collapse. Since then, President Obama hasn’t had much luck in passing job-creating bills through Congress in 2011 and 2012, though he was able to pass the JOBS Act this year to give young businesses a boost.
The President proposes stimulating the economy by the federal government "investing in education, energy, innovation and infrastructure, and by reforming the tax code” to extend cuts for the middle class while raising taxes on those who make more than $250,000 a year. Particularly, he proposes helping tech startups and new green energy companies grow, as young companies drive the majority of job growth.
Mitt Romney’s "plan seeks to reduce taxes, spending, regulation, and government programs” and “increase trade, energy production, human capital, and labor flexibility." Governor Romney believes that a decrease in financial regulation, environmental regulation, and taxes will kickstart economic growth by creating a more “business-friendly environment.”
Governor Romney has advocated for tax cuts across the board, but his budget has come under scrutiny from nonpartisan tax studies that the numbers in his budget don’t add up and could increase the deficit. Obama had promised to cut the deficit in half, but has failed to do so.
+ Student Debt
College students across the nation averted a disaster in July when Congress extended low student loan rates for a year; they were set to double from 3.4% to 6.8%.
Of course, there are many other disasters when it comes to trying to pay for college in America. Unpaid student loans topped the trillion-dollar mark over a year ago and now exceed credit card debt.
President Obama capped federal student loan repayments at 10% of income, meaning that recent grads won’t be as hounded to pay back money they don’t have and appears committed to solving the student debt crisis. He’s also increased the availability and amount of Pell Grants. This is only one part of the problem though, as the cost of college continues to rise..
At the first debate, Governor Romney vowed, “I don’t have any plan to cut education funding and grants that got to people going to college,” but his call for widespread cuts in federal discretionary spending could result in cuts. Romney feels that increasing federal aid only drives the cost of college up, and that the private sector is the answer.
+ LGTBQ Rights and Women’s Rights
On May 9th, President Obama made headlines when he announced his support of gay marriage, but still maintained that the legality of gay marriage should be decided by each state.
Mitt Romney’s position is more complex. At the behest of the leading gay marriage opposition organization in the country, National Organization for Marriage, Romney signed a pledge to support a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman, defend DOMA in court, appoint federal and supreme court judges who oppose gay marriage as a constitutional right, and establish a “presidential commission on religious liberty” to protect gay marriage opponents.
While it’s nearly impossible for Governor Romney to muster the support to pass a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, it’s possible that he would appoint new Supreme Court justices who would oppose gay marriage as a constitutional right.
As far as the ladies go, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Act to help women fight pay discrimination, and if one of the older justices on the Supreme Court retires, President Obama would almost certainly nominate a justice that would protect Roe v. Wade; conversely, Governor Romney would likely nominate a justice who would be the swing vote in overturning a women’s right to choose.
Governor Romney has also vowed to repeal the health care laws that require employers to cover birth control for female employees and eliminate copays for birth control. Many view this law as an attack on religious freedom, but faith-based organizations are actually exempt from this requirement (so they don’t actually have to cover birth control copays if they don’t want to).
In June, the Supreme Court ruled that the Affordable Healthcare Act (better known as Obamacare) was constitutional—good news for those of us who are under 26. Obamacare ensures that you get to stay on your parents’ health insurance until you’re 26, can’t be penalized for pre-existing conditions, and don’t have to pay a copay for birth control. This is all, of course, as long as you get insurance, which the government will help facilitate financially; otherwise, you pay a penalty. This penalty is a large part of the controversy with Obamacare- some don’t think it’s fair. Others are also worried about how Obamacare will be paid for in the future.
Governor Romney has vowed to repeal and replace Obamacare as soon as he gets elected; he’s expressed interest in maintaining some provisions of the law, though he has not expressed how.
+ Foreign Policy and National Security
Under President Obama, the United States has ended the war in Iraq and slowly decreased its presence in Afghanistan, where they’re expected to end combat operations at the end of 2014. Still, serious challenges remain for the United States in a corruption-riddled Afghanistan, particularly in the violence-stricken southern region of Kandahar.
In killing Osama Bin Laden and assassinating many Al Qaeda leaders through controversial drone strikes, President Obama “has refocused George Bush’s “war on terror” more squarely on terrorists,” as the Economist noted in its final evaluation of the candidates.
In the third Presidential debate on foreign policy, it was difficult to discern significant differences in the two candidates’ view on foreign policy. The Middle East presents a serious challenge: the civil war in Syria is growing increasingly violent and devastating; Egypt is less of an ally under the newly-elected Muslim Brotherhood government; Israel and Iran continually teeter on the brink of conflict over Iran’s condemned nuclear program.
Both candidates have publicly advocated a pragmatic and conflict-averse approach to Egypt and Syria. Many have expressed concern over Governor Romney’s vows to take a more aggressive approach with China and Iran. He’s vowed to label China a currency manipulator on day one of his presidency, which could complicate trade relations with America’s biggest trading partner. He’s also indicated he’d be more willing to support military conflict in Iran, alongside Israel.
+ The Environment & Energy
In the wake of the Frankenstorm, global warming is on everyone’s minds. Businessweek made a splash with their cover story this week: “It’s Global Warming, Stupid,” and The Onion was all too accurate with the headline: “Nation Suddenly Realizes This Just Going to Be A Thing That Happens From Now On.”
There’s certainly reason to worry. Earth's average temperature has risen by 1.4°F over the past century, and is projected to rise another 2 to 11.5°F over the next hundred years, thanks to an excess of greenhouse gas emissions from expended fossil fuels and a disintegrating ozone layer from Adam Lambert’s hairspray. As the EPA puts it simply: “Climate change is happening.”
Last year, Republican nominee Mitt Romney said he believed that humans were causing the world to get warmer, but by this past October, he changed his position. “My view is that we don’t know what is causing climate change on this planet,” he said, adding that reducing emissions was not the right course for the country.
President Obama believes global warming is a reality, and has made an investment in clean energy a key component of his “All of the Above” energy plan. That said, it’s clear that the prez has made other issues more of a priority during his first term: healthcare, Wall Street reform, just to name a few.
Still, President Obama “doubled down” on green energy in his proposed 2013 budget, requesting $27.2 billion for the Energy department to fund green energy initiatives.
Conversely, Governor Romney supports dialing back regulations on the energy industry and maximizing the United States’ carbon-based fossil fuel production; as noted above, Romney has said that he doesn’t view reducing emissions as the right course for the country.
So #GoVote. Spread the word. Head to the polls and bring a buddy too. Friends don’t let friends complain about politics without voting.